MWC Americas 2018 – Top 10 Interviews from the Show

IoT for All gives a recap of 10 interviews at MWCA 2018 in LA, featuring exclusive insights from AT&T, Ericsson, Samsung, SAP, Qualcomm, LADOT, KORE, Ubicquia, Carnegie Technologies, and Silicon Labs.

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Image of the Mobile World Congress Logo over the trophy from Mobile World Congress

IoT For All escaped the wind and rain of Hurricane Florence and traveled to sunny Los Angeles for Mobile World Congress Americas 2018 to bring you exclusive insights from the show. Although the communications industry was buzzing about the implications of 5G, the theme of the event this year from an IoT perspective was definitely solutions. In this MWCA 2018 recap, we’ll give you both a bird’s eye view of the show and some exclusive insights from our interviews so that you know how each player is navigating the landscape. 

Companies large and small are focusing more of their product budgets and go-to-market strategy around pre-built, end-to-end solutions to customer problems. We view this as a significant step in the right direction to achieving the business penetration and scale predicted by IoT market analysts.

Image from the front of the Mobile World Congress venue

Although we met many companies moving the needle, we’re proud to present our Top 10 movers and shakers based on exclusive in-person interviews:

1. Ubicquia

Located on the Space Coast in Melbourne Florida, the Ubicquia team has built an impressive portfolio of modular smart street lighting products that can be quickly and affordably installed by cities, municipalities, and utilities. Ian Aaron, CEO, and Tre Zimmerman, CTO & Co-founder, told IoT For All that in addition to helping customers accelerate the transition to more energy efficient LED lights, Ubicquia’s elevated products (most streetlights are 25 ft. off of the ground) serve as both electrical and communications hubs for all manner of devices, including video cameras, air quality sensors, gunshot detectors, and environmental monitors.

Their Ubicell router uses a standard NEMA socket design that is compatible with more than 300 million streetlights worldwide. It provides advanced lighting controls that optimize efficiency based on ambient lighting conditions and allows different settings (color, intensity, etc.) to indicate emergencies or other unusual conditions. They also have larger form factors such as the Ubihub and Ubimetro that offer advanced features including the ability to serve as small cells for emerging 5G networks. Add in Wifi hotspots, Power over Ethernet (PoE) ports, connections for fiber, and LoRa connectivity, and you’ve got a potent, powered communications hub ready for installation on every city block and along most streets. You can check out the possibilities on their website and get updates through their Twitter.

2. KORE

We caught up with KORE’s CEO Romil Bahl before the show on Thursday morning and came away excited about their recently announced focus on packaged IoT solutions and technology-enabled services. Since Romil came on board eleven months ago, KORE has rebranded itself as an end-to-end solutions provider and strategic white-glove consulting company focused like a laser on delivering business outcomes that scale.

Romil and his team have brought in product managers and united the various assets they have acquired into a one-stop shop for customers looking to deploy IoT systems that deliver on an advertised ROI. KORE’s carrier-agnostic positioning and nimble go-to-market strategy are starting to pay dividends with wins in verticals such as fleet management (courtesy of subsidiary Position Logic), healthcare, and logistics. Headquartered in Atlanta and 400 strong, KORE is quickly establishing itself as a go-to company for a diverse set of business customers. Learn more about what they’re doing on their website and by following them on Twitter.

3. SAP

If you were wondering what the former team at Sybase 365 has been up to since their acquisition by German software powerhouse SAP in 2010, we have an update for you. Sethu M (President, SAP Digital Interconnect) and Vaibhav Vohra (VP & Head of Product Management) told us that the 250-person division (and now known as SAP Digital Interconnect), has continued to refine and expand their unique cloud-based cellular core network. Their software-only solution covers 99.5% of the world, supports global roaming across carriers, and underpins the connectivity services of most social networks and banks. They’ve recently launched capabilities to enable intelligent interconnect services (including social media channels) to enable developers to bring global connectivity to their apps and systems. 

While their parent company enjoys a 90 percent market share in ERP systems and has been focused on their Leonardo IoT platform, the team’s strength is single SIM connectivity for enterprise customers and system integrators looking to deploy private LTE networks (and other non-cellular based connectivity) that are cloud-agnostic and open. Connected cars are an area of interest for them and they lead with frictionless, software-based connectivity, a single contract, rich feature sets, and global, secure coverage. For instance, customers can whitelist or blacklist different operators based on signal strength and cost to optimize services while roaming. This is particularly important in Europe where end-to-end transportation applications require seamless connectivity across multiple countries and carriers. Read more about SAP IoT Connect 365, enterprise service and SAP IoT Connect 365, operator service. Follow their Twitter for updates.

4. AT&T

As you might imagine, AT&T is a major player and market leader in the IoT space. We sat down with Cameron Coursey, VP of Product Development for IoT Solutions, to get his perspective on emerging trends. Cameron believes the IoT space is still wide open to competition and sees a large opportunity in connected cars.

Each year, automotive manufacturers bundle more technology and connectivity into their cars for many reasons, including over-the-air updates for recalls, consumer mobility solutions, Wifi hotspots, and infotainment. AT&T is very active with auto manufacturers and is enabling intelligent transportation systems through ubiquitous and affordable connectivity–from 5G to LTE to LTE-M to NB-IoT. There are still challenges to widespread adoption such as complexity, security, cost, and governmental regulation—especially as it relates to vehicle-to-vehicle communication standards—but the upward trend is undeniable.

AT&T has also been focused on bundling services with devices such as the cellular-enabled AWS IoT button which offers 1500 clicks or 2-years of service (whatever comes first) into a $29 package. They also recently partnered with Samsung to deliver the consumer-oriented SmartThings tracker that leverages LTE-M technology to deliver wireless coverage at a reduced cost (learn more in the Samsung section below). Cameron also highlighted their continued efforts at miniaturization, reduced power consumption, and cost reduction with the Altair/G+D announcement to embed IoT SIMs capabilities directly into chipsets. Learn more about AT&T’s IoT portfolio and follow their Twitter for updates.                                 

5. Qualcomm

Qualcomm continues to be “boring and profitable” according to Jeffery Torrance, their VP of Business Development. Rumors of a hangover from the unsuccessful Broadcom and NXP acquisitions are greatly exaggerated. They continue to reap the rewards of massive yet focused R&D investments and have expanded their technology moat. The overwhelming investment required to support semiconductor innovation has essentially boxed out startup competition and left Intel and Qualcomm as the only real players in IoT semiconductor hardware.

Qualcomm has been focused on providing enabling technology to verticals such as robotics, asset tracking, electronic point-of-sale (POS) systems, and warehousing. They continue to drive down production costs for IoT modules and lift associated profits by limiting module choices through an intentionally sparse product roadmap. This strategy creates scale, standardization, and efficiencies at lower volumes—millions instead of hundreds of millions of devices shipped for smartphones. Jeffery also mentioned that they are benefitting from retailers innovating using the Android platform to create lower cost but highly-capable SaaS solutions. Learn more about Qualcomm’s IoT solutions and make sure you follow them on Twitter for updates.

6. Ericsson

We sat down with Jeff Travers, VP of IoT Technology & Emerging Technologies, to get his insights on the Industrial IoT (IIoT) market. Although factory floors are still largely wired and inefficient, private LTE networks that connect remotely-managed robots to hybrid clouds are poised to change that. According to Jeff, modern factories are reconfigured on a weekly basis. The re-cabling required to move assets around the floor is expensive, time-consuming, and dangerous.

Factories have experimented with Wifi connectivity to solve the problem. Fluctuating latency and unreliable bandwidth have led to frustration and failure. Enter LTE: a reliable communications technology with deterministic scheduling that acts more like a real-time operating system. Private LTE networks like those proposed by CBRS and Multefire alliances are the perfect fit for trustworthy wireless connectivity. In addition, advances in hybrid cloud approaches, like Google’s recently announced Kubernetes on-premise solution, provide the flexibility and security required for business-critical operations where minutes of downtime can lead to millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Ericsson also had an interesting take on autonomous driving. They believe that a single human remotely controlling a swarm of 5-10 cars at certain critical times is a natural step along the path to full autonomy—especially given the patchwork of reliable connectivity that exists on road systems outside of major metropolitan areas. Learn more about Ericsson’s IoT solutions and stay tuned on their Twitter for updates.

7. LA Department of Transportation

Seleta Reynolds, Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s dynamic GM, is on a mission to reinvent the way cities approach mobility. We certainly appreciate her attitude and energy. She believes cities need to behave more like activist investors, leading co-creation with private industry by engaging with them much earlier in the urban planning and development process. While she admits that government acquisition is broken at many levels, Seleta has successfully prequalified 100 companies to work with LADOT in short order.

Seleta has also infused new skill sets into the city’s workforce by hiring additional personnel and bringing on technology consultants that specialize in IoT and mobility. Her team and other cities around the country are focused on what they call “Transportation 2.0.” They’re developing an open “operating-system-for-a-city” that can be shared and extended as required like a blueprint. They’ve even open-sourced e-scooter capabilities and uploaded the project to Github. With her motto of “code is the new concrete,” Seleta is a force to be reckoned with. Check out their work on “transportation happiness” and the “mobility bill of rights” on their website and on their Twitter.

8. Carnegie Technologies

Carnegie Technologies is a recent entrant in the end-to-end LoRa solutions field. They debuted a compelling product (and subsidiary) called Longview at MWCA. The Longview team is based in Austin, Texas and led by Brad Bush, Managing Director of IoT. Carnegie has purpose-built a long-range tracking solution for assets and people for the oil and gas, construction, and mining verticals. It consists of custom weatherproof, battery-powered sensors, mesh-enabled LoRa gateways with Wifi capabilities, and all solution software—including the user interface.

They’ve extended the standard LoRaWAN protocol with a patent-pending Super-B protocol that optimizes network bandwidth and eases over-the-air (OTA) upgrades. Their first major deployment is for a commercial construction customer with plans to roll out the technology to track thousands of people and assets over hundreds of acres. Visit their website for more details. Follow Carnegie Technologies on Twitter to get updates.

9. Samsung

Photo of the Samsung Booth at MWCA 2018

Samsung debuted a direct-to-consumer asset tracker called SmartThings running on the AT&T LTE-M network. The SmartThings device is very small—think keychain or pet collar attachment—lightweight, and environmentally sealed (i.e IP68) making it a good solution for numerous use cases. It is packed with a GPS and accelerometer and delivers up to one week of battery life on a single charge. It has a companion app that allows you to set geofences and automatically get notifications based on user-defined rules.

Samsung is offering the device for less than $100 US including one year of cellular service. After the first year, extended connectivity can be purchased at $5/month. The device will also be available on the Verizon network in the near future. We’re curious to see how the consumer market responds to this device and whether the features and price point are compelling enough to drive significant sales volume. Follow along with Samsung’s SmartThings on Twitter.

10. Silicon Labs

Founded in 1996, Silicon Labs is an established player in the semiconductor space. They’ve built a large and growing presence in the short-range IoT connectivity market. IoT For All spoke with Riku Mettala, VP and GM for Wifi and Cloud Products, and learned that they specialize in Zigbee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth, and Thread modules, software, and solutions for connected home, wearables, and industrial applications.

IoT is Silicon Labs’ fastest growing business segment. Their technology is designed for solutions that demand low power consumption and support multi-protocol connectivity. Hardware designers are able to eliminate many discrete components when building sensors and edge devices, thereby increasing productivity, time-to-market, and driving down costs. If you’re looking for hardware components for short-range applications, check out their IoT offerings on their website and follow them on Twitter.